I lucked out for winter break last year. In my last trimester of pregnancy, it was too risky for me travel anywhere, and so I was advised to stay put. We had stayed home for most winter vacations in the previous years, as my husband is a self-employed dentist and therefore “paid vacation” does not really exist. And I had managed to come up with a few enticing day-trips to create a break in the constant bickering among my kids; Chuck E. Cheese! Frozen Yogurt! Build-a-Bear! Getting our teeth cleaned (I know, I’m that creative)! But as my midsection grew to enormous proportions, I found myself lying on the couch and only participating in activities that boasted a chair, preferably one that reclined (another hidden perk at the dentist).
“Why don’t I take the kids to Puerto Rico this year?” my husband offered one night in December, while I stared at the dishes, hoping they’d wash themselves. “I’ll take off from work…”
My eyes lit up. It would be the ultimate winter break for me: one giant, week-long nap. I shivered with excitement.
We talked through the details. It would be from Sunday through Thursday. I’d make a menu, prepare and pack food, and write up a manual to caring for our kids, which would include important tips, such as brush their hair, feed them real meals (not just ice cream) and put them to bed before eight. I would also pack their suitcases and organize their carry-on bags, and would probably be so tired, I wouldn’t move again until they’d come home.
I was smart about the organization. With a few weeks left until the trip, I split up the work over time and did a little each day, all the while scouting out the perfect pillow for my own restful vacation. But I guess we missed some very important details, because it all changed when my husband handed me the flight itineraries one evening in early January.
“Here’s the plan,” he said, and I flipped through the pages showing departures and arrivals, and that luckily, it was a non-smoking flight.
“You only reserved three seats?” I asked, noticing his name, along with our two older children on the ticket heading. We had a third child, a daughter, who was 3, too old to be a lap-baby. “Will you wear her in a Baby-Bjorn or something? Hide her in your coat?” I asked, desperately, trying to come up with a logical reason for why there was no ticket in her name. I looked at the floor, hoping that maybe I had just dropped the paper.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I never planned on taking her. I can’t bring all of them alone…” He looked at me helplessly, and I understood. I also wouldn’t want to venture on a vacation with all three kids. I could barely handle Votee Park.
It was just like that that my dream winter vacation melted away. The vision, so pristinely created, would never actualize. Although this meant that I would have to get dressed every day, I at least wouldn’t have to play referee to any sibling fights on a minute-to-minute basis. And I would have one daughter who could keep her long hair, because it was likely that the other would need a buzz cut when she returned with un-brushed dreadlocks or a tangled beehive housing a few crabs, sand and seashells.
Winter vacation ended up being relaxing. We did low-key activities, like cut up many papers into tiny squares, braid and put beads in her hair so it looked like she went somewhere tropical, and, the dreaded Chuck E. Cheese. My daughter was thrilled to have time alone with me, a final hurrah as the glorified baby of the family. And I was lucky to get a break, even just a partial one.
Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer living with her husband and four children in Teaneck. She is working on her first book. More of her essays can be found at www.writersblackout.wordpress.com.
By Sarah Abenaim